MGM Resorts Likely Not Applying For Chicago Casino License

Big national operator cites high taxes and logistical issues as two primary reasons
MGM Chicago Casino
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MGM Resorts threw some cold water on the possibility of applying for the casino license granted to the city of Chicago, which recently released its Request for Proposal for potential suitors.

Speaking along with MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle on a quarterly conference call Wednesday night, Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Halkyard went through a list of potential locations where MGM Resorts would consider building casinos, including Japan, New York, Texas, Florida, and Georgia. When it came to Chicago, though, Halkyard called it “complicated.”

“The history there in Chicago, the tax and the notion of integrated resort at scale don’t necessarily marry up,” Halkyard said. “And while I think they’ve had some improvement, we’re not overly keen or focused at this point in time there.”

MGM Resorts, which recently projected $1 billion in net revenue in Fiscal Year 2022, was widely expected to be among the applicants for the casino license. It had provided responses to the city’s Request for Information, with the comments released to the public last December.

The deadline to submit proposals to the city in response to the RFP is Aug. 23.

“MGM Resorts is a respected company and Chicago would have been delighted to receive an MGM casino proposal,” the city of Chicago said in a statement. “We understand each casino operator will need to determine which opportunities are best suited for their organization and that MGM has prioritized its focus for several years on opportunities in Japan and its mobile wagering businesses. However, we believe other well-respected casino operators have a different view of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Chicago, and we expect to receive outstanding proposals for the Chicago casino.”

MGM Resorts does have a Midwest presence with its Detroit-based casino and retail sportsbook and has quickly emerged as the early market leader in iGaming in Michigan. For sports betting, it is a strong regional player in both the Wolverine State and Indiana, though its mobile component — BetMGM — has yet to be granted a supplier license to begin accepting wagers in Illinois.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been the primary driving force for a casino in the downtown area — one of six locations granted a license in the 2019 capital bill that expanded gaming and legalized sports betting in Illinois. She helped revise the tax rates for a potential venue that was passed in the state’s budget bill last May.

Despite Chicago being considered an underserved market when it comes to gaming, the eventual downtown casino targeted for a 2025 opening will not lack for competition. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, less than 20 miles from “The Loop,” is the highest revenue generator among the state’s 10 casinos. Hard Rock will open a casino in Gary, Ind., next month, giving the northwest Indiana region three casinos just over the state line less than an hour’s drive from Chicago.

Photo from Shutterstock

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